Since the mid-90s, the Toyota Avalon has been the flagship sedan in the Toyota lineup. As the run of the fourth generation has come to an end, the all new 2019 Avalon is hitting dealer floors and no surprise, it’s a step up in nearly every direction imaginagle. Toyota has been upping its game recently with redesigns such as the Camry and Corolla and the Avalon is no exception. Like a proud parent, Toyota sent me a 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited to see what’s new.
The smooth lines of the last generation led a to car that was nice, but still rather boring. For 2019, the squared off styling ends with a vehicle that looks less bloated than before while not trying to be overly sporty. From the front, the fascia is absolutely massive. At first I was not a fan, but I grew to accept it as the week went by. It’s definitely not great, but it’s not the cheese grater it was at first glance. As you work rearward, the lines are subtle but add some slight aggression in a near-Lexus way. Angular edges make for a more stately sedan feel than the almost whale-ike rounded edges from the previous generation. Walking around the back, you are greeted by the trendy design feature of connected taillights bearing the “AVALON” name. It actually looks really nice and is probably my favorite angle on the entire vehicle.
Something else that impressed me about he exterior was the attention put into the lighting. Depending on the direction you signal, the turn lamps light up from the inside to out, much like newer Audis. Also, unlike the Kia from last week, they actually use the entire length of the connected tail lamp at night giving it both a more upscale appearance as well as making the car more visible to other drivers. The “wishbone style” of the daytime running lights on the front also look very nice. I have not seen this level of detail to lighting on any other Toyota product I have tested thus far, and it’s fitting that their “flagship” sedan has gotten this level of attention. You can tell they spent a lot of time making the car as upscale as possible on the exterior and it that translates right into the interior.
As you enter the Avalon, you are greeted with what appears to be the interior from anything but a Toyota. While the interior of the 3rd generation, running from 2012 through 2018, was nice, it was also quite busy and had a mass produced feeling with plastics dominated the cabin. For the 2019, I could have believed I was sitting in a Lexus were it not for the Toyota badge on the steering wheel. Just sitting in the car, it even smells like the recent Lexus models that I have spent time in. High quality materials are definitely to thank for this with leather covering nearly every object you touch; and what is not leather is either soft touch surface or a sleek natural finished wood. The culmination of these materials makes for an incredible cabin.
Heated and cooled front seats along with heated rear seats are a luxury usually reserved for luxury brands, but this Toyota has them. The seating position for the driver is fantastic, allowing the seat to sit as high, or as low, as the driver prefer. A little more side bolster would be appreciated but driving a comfortable armchair to work is not the worst thing imaginable. The rear seats have plenty of room for taller occupants and would be an absolute dream over a long road trip. The design of the AC ventilation holes in the seats is interesting and I suppose that the attempt at artistry can, or should, be appreciated. That artistry extends to door panels as well. The gorgeous leather stitching above the door handles reminds me of the over doubly expensive Lexus LS500. I found myself looking at the passenger side every time I got in the car, enjoying the detail work. That attention to detail continues once on the road.
Driving the Avalon is truly a joy. Is it sporty? Nope, not in the least. It understeers under the slightest hit of aggression and with a 0-60 nearing 8 seconds, it is not exactly a drag car. With the excellent Toyota Hybrid system though, commuting is a pretty decent experience. Heads up display, radar cruise control, lane assist and the whole Toyota safety suite make for a relaxed journey, free from having to pay attention to anything but what is ahead. It does all of this while managing to eek out over 40 miles per gallon. This further proves my point from the Prius review that a car doesn’t have to be noisy, ugly, and cheap feeling to get gas mileage that is more than acceptable.
Toyota has accomplished that with the Avalon and across its own lineup several times over at this point beyond the Prius. On top of that, over the week I actually used less gas in the Avalon than the Prius. This seems odd until you realize the Avalon has nearly 80 extra horsepower meaning the it has to work less to achieve the same speed as the Prius. Not having to put your right foot down also means the experience is more refined and comfortable for all involved.
At just over $45,000, the Avalon is not far from the $52,000 price tag of a similarly equipped ES300h which leads to an interesting question. Is the ES really worth $7000 more? Here at RFD, we don’t have an answer yet as the 2019 ES just started hitting showroom floors last month and we won’t be getting one to drive for another month or so. If the $52,000 price tag for the Lexus is a piggy bank breaker, the Avalon will not leave you disappointed. It is a fantastic vehicle and easily the best Avalon ever.